Five Ace Mentors – all of whom you may need:
No 3 Technical
If the benefits of mentoring are only really appreciated after the experience, the mentors in this series tell us about the special contributions they have made to their mentees.
No 1 Concept development: coming up with something for which there is a real need and that is achievable, marketable and fundable. Jackie Young – in Life Sciences
No 2 Strategy and management: determining objectives; getting there; and making and managing the team. JMD – in Fintech.
No 3 Technical: designing, creating and delivering the product/service. Jo Rabin – in Technologies.
No 4 Marketing and sales: attracting users, buyers, customers. Andrew Grant – in modelling.
No 5 Finance: managing the funds. Anon
No 6 Mentor and support Manager – helping to identify issues and provide mentors; and running events – Thibaut Rouquette – Startupbootamp
No 3 I meet Accelerator Wayra Lab’s ‘Chief Technology
For early-stage ventures, mentors are fairly common, entrepreneurs-in-residence rather less common, and CTOs-in-residence rare birds. He advises on the scope, requirements, costs and risks of alternative approaches – especially in the early stages of young businesses.
As CTO-in-residence at Wayra Lab, Jo Rabin mentors the 24 startups/SMEs there over the course of their 10-month programme, by initially meeting all of them, and then responding to the teams’ summonses or needs. He devotes one day a week during the first month of this programme, when he is in the greatest demand, and then two days a month for the rest of the programme.
He helps team to take the right decisions on the technologies that form an essential part of their business. Budding entrepreneurs, he says, often need but seriously lack the IT experience that is often an essential component of their business’s development. For those that are developing IT, he will review their options and advise on the scope, requirements, costs and risks of their alternatives; for those who are marketing a product in which IT is embedded, he will usually be responding to their specific issues.
He is highly valued – for his substantial experience of different technologies and breadth and depth of knowledge, and for his network of contacts, all of which he draws on for businesses at different stages of development, and for different members of each team – with their different values and relationships.
According to colleagues at Wayra Lab, he had devoted a whole week-end to rescuing a team whose developers had abandoned ship and which had no clarity about its strategy, helping them to take the right decisions about the technology involved.
He is a qualified engineer, and is above all a practitioner. He has always worked in organisations that were at the leading edge of IT development, and he now heads up a group of engineers in a small engineering business, and he has been involved in half-a-dozen startups. Ten years ago, he started Mobile Monday, a monthly meetup for people involved in mobile technology; and over the last three years he has run five innovate-style learning programmes about mobile technology (each of ten weeks duration, two evenings a week) for UCL, and now held at UCL’s IdeaLondon incubator.
His is a mind of many dimensions. He has seen the development in the past of many leading-edge innovations in IT; and though sceptical about innovation for its own sake, he holds clear views about its future – as especially in terms of mobile and the Internet of Things. As with all engineers, he says, he thinks both in terms of the macro and the micro, and the successful integration of the two. And he sees things in terms of understanding patterns and what makes them harmonious, and applies that thinking to the teams he meets (which he explained to me in terms of Bach’s fugues.)
He likes working with early-stage businesses because their members are young, bright, quick, passionate and determined; and they are responsive. And he enjoys his current portfolio of different roles in different contexts – which seem to support one another.